Saturday, April 27, 2019

Back to the USA!

Bell Island/Pastue Cay

Our last stop in the Exumas was Highbourne Cay - again, a favourite stop for us.  But before Highbourne, we had one last anchorage stop at  at what turned out to be a great little spot between Bell Island, Pastue Cay, and O'brien Cay. 

We anchored right by a snorkeling spot shown as "aircraft".  We left Emerald Bay and sailed north, entering the Exuma Bank at Dotham Cut, just north of Black Point.  I had never used this cut before, but it seemed wide open on the chart, settled conditions and we would arrive about a half hour after low tide - this should be a good time and good conditions.  While the passage was uneventful, I was however surprised at the turbulence in the cut.  I think we have had easier passages through Little Farmers Cut, Galliot Cut, and Cave Cay Cut (all located south) under worse sea and tide conditions - so just a note for future reference.  Even though it looks good on the chart, I don't think I would chose Dotham Cut under anything other than good conditions.

Dotham Cut

Highbourne Cay

Its hard not to love a view like this!  Beautiful beach at Highbourne Cay, just outside Xuma restaurant.

Like most places in the Bahamas, prices continue to rise.  Does this mean I am just becoming a curmudgeon on a fixed income......or are the mega-yachts in the Bahamas that have "no budget" just driving the prices up?  I think its the latter.  I can't believe the number of mega-yachts we have seen this year -  filling up with 4,000 gal of diesel at $5 per gallon.  Crew of 5 or 6 with the unlimited "boat card" account at the bars and restaurants.  Yes, the tourism industry had figured that out and put prices up accordingly!  Anyway, Highbourne is still a special spot in the Bahamas, albeit expensive.


Sunrise on the Banks
From Highbourne, we did an overnight across the Bahama Bank to Bimini.  it was a combination of sailing and motor-sailing.  With calm weather, we came across a number of boats that had elected to simply anchor part way across the bank.  No problem in 12 ft of water!  We elected too just continue on and arrived in Bimini by about 10 am the following morning.  We stayed at Bluewater marina - one of the most cost-effective stops at $1/ft.  It works out great as long as you don't need water - which is 75 cents/gal.

Instrument screenshot - note 4.9 kt current!

We have stayed in Bimini several times now - so this was just a brief stop over before leaving the next day on a NW wind.  Most people wont leave if the wind has a north component to it and several frowned at us w hen they heard our plan.  But at 12 kts and if the plan is to head south, with care and a watch on the weather, its ok.  Wee were making for Marathon and this means fighting the Gulf Stream to get south.  North winds (wind against current) can give rise to square waves which are uncomfortable at best - but at 12 kts, the saw no issues.  Fighting the current was an issue, causing us to run both headsails downwind and motors to make reasonable progress.  4.9 kts of current - really?  well this is way higher than the charts show, but I think it was real given our speed.

Arrival in the USA!

Fighting the stream, we did finally make landfall at Rodriguez Key, just off Key Largo, FL.  Home....well almost!  Again, a quick overnight stop before sailing on to Marathon.  Sailing in the Hawk's Channel keeps one out of the Gulf Stream, so progress was far better.  We refueled and managed to get a slip at Marathon YC for a couple of nights - good move as we sat out some weather there.  
Salty Crew celebrates US arrival with Champagne!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Love the Southern Bahamas!

Matthew Town

After leaving the DR with a bad taste, we sailed across to Great Inagua, Bahamas.  What a contrast!  Although the marina is very basic (no power or water on the dock), dockmaster George and ll of the officials were so friendly and welcoming.  We were welcomed to the marina and the Bahamas.

Haitian Sailboats
We only spend a night in Great Inagua (Matthew Town), as there was not a lot to do or see.  However, we saw the spectacular sight of some traditional Haitian sailboats coming into port.

According to George, the sailors come from an island just off Haiti to trade and to deliver passengers to Inagua.  We saw them unloading Bananas and other produce - all by hand.  These boats have no machinery or engines.  If you look closely, you will see that the masts are actually palm tree trunks.

They also deliver passengers traveling overseas via air.  Apparently, people chose to come through Inagua rather than the airport in Haiti because of the violence and turmoil in their country - at least that is what George told us.  If that truly is the case, what a awful state Haiti must be in.  It sounds almost as bad as traveling through Atlanta or Miami airport! :)

Haitian Traders

Anyway, what a pleasant stay we had albeit short.  And talk about "rags to riches" - this was our dock neighbor - 160 ft sailing yacht Alejandra, apparently owned by a Greek millionaire, and the former boat of the King of Spain.
SV Alejandra

Hogsty Reef

Our next overnight stop was another spectacular one.  We made the 40 or so mile sail from Matthew Town to Hogsty Reef - a natural atol in the middle of the Atlantic, measuring about 3 miles long by 1.5 miles across - here's a screenshot of the chart to hopefully clarify what it looks like:

We anchored right behind Northwest cay - it is a small sand island , maybe 3-4 acres in size.  It was just amazing to be anchored in 12 ft of water in the mid Atlantic.

What an amazing place this is  - I wish we could have stayed longer and explored the underwater treasures here - apparently it is spectacular.  So we will have to return!

Acklins Island and Crooked Island

Moving right along - our next stop was an overnight anchorage off Acklins Island.  I must admit, I was already really loving the remoteness of the southern Bahamas - even more than the Exumas.  We dinghied ashore and did a little beachcoming before dark  This was just an overnight stop.  We then sailed on to Crooked Island.  We had been in touch with our good friend Nandra who has a house on Crooked Island near Pitts Town Point. 

Unfortunately, Nandra was not here - but true Nandra style, she set up dinner reservations for is at "Willlie's", also known as Gibson's No. 2.  OMG, what a delight!  Nothing fancy, but homestyle cooking at a family table with some other visitors and fishermen.  The food was exceptional.  We all agreed this was the best conch and grouper we had ever had.  So five stars for Wille!  and a big thank you to Nandra for setting this up

It was a long dinghy ride to get to Willies and the boat was anchored on a lee shore - never the best of things, but the weather was very settled and the overnight forecast for 4-6 kts.  So I felt comfortable with our spot under these conditions.  However - you can't rely on forecasts 100% - as we learned.  In the middle of the night,  a rain storm came through bringing 20 kt winds and some big waves/swells.  We were all awake and it seemed like we had moved some on the anchor.  We elected to pull up anchor and motor on through the storm across to Long Island.

This turned into all night and the next day....but we made it safely to Emerald Bay Marina near Georgetown, Great Exuma.  A familiar spot to us and nice marina.

We were ready for a couple nights of R&R!

Marina at Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay

Monday, April 8, 2019

Dominican Republic Leaves a Sour Taste

As a quick post script to my last post - we left the DR the  day before yesterday and sailed to the Bahamas.  Leaving Luperon was an awful process.  First - Luperon has some additional fees that we were not informed about or asked for in other ports.  This amounted to $10/person and $10 for the boat.  Not a big deal, but I suspect these were not "required".

Arrival Bahamas
Then, when we came to check out we were helped by an official ( I think he was plain clothed police).  He was with the Navy (Armada), had a badge, adn spoke good english.  He asked if I would do him a favor and take him on the dinghy to get a photo of a new boat that had arrived in the harbor.  After checking out with all the agencies, I did this.  He arrived with 2 DEA officers (with guns and badges).  We went by dinghy to the boat he needed a photo of, then he said the the DEA needed to see my boat.  They boarder the boat, asked to see any guns or drugs.  We had prescription drugs.  Then one guy asked to look around.  As he was looking the police guy said "I can see you are good people and don't want any hassle.  How about you give this guy a tip and I will make sure they leave.  Otherwise, I think they will want to go through everything...."  $20 later and a dinghy ride to the dock, they were happy and gone.....and we left post haste.  I don't think we will be in a rush to return to the DR.

Matthew Town - glad to be here!
We sailed on to the Bahamas - Matthew Town.  What a difference!  George was happy to see us (dockmaster).  And the officials extremely friendly and polite!  We are glad to be in the Bahamas!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Puerto Rico to Dominican Republic

Mona Passage

The Mona Passage is the narrow piece of the Caribbean Sea between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and has a reputation for being a treacherous piece of the ocean. We were fortunate to find ourselves ready to cross on a benign day.  We had light winds of 10-15, but still a 5 ft swell.  I could see how this area could become nasty in bad weather.  The wind was dead behind us, so we motor-sailed the entire 72 miles.  Not the most fun, but we did get across in daylight - which is always a good thing!

Marina Cap Cana 

We hailed the marina and were given a slip assignment.  As we arrived, the DR Navy representatives were already waiting for us to check in.  Soon the other myriad of officials arrived - department or sanitation, department of agriculture, immigration, etc.  We had heard stories about this - very much like our trips to Cuba.  And often the officials expect a "gift" or "donation".  However, none was mentioned and everything went smoothly.  Soon papers were stamped, we shook hands and politely thanked them all - oh they did confiscate our oranges and a pineapple.  We forgot we had some fruit on board.
The marina was not quite what I was expecting - kind of a large development of condos around a series of canals and basins that for the marina.  The place has something of a Venetian feel, with an area of restaurants, condos, and a hotel.  We decided to stay a couple of nights and relax a little.  We did not venture outside of the development here as we were told that it was a $30 taxi ride each way with not much to see.  However there were numerous nice restaurants within the development, pools, bars etc.

After 2 nights, we ventured on to Samana.


Samana is a town and a very large deep bay, knows as a breeding ground (or was it birthing ground) for whales.  The season being January to March 30.  It was March 31 - would they have al been give their despachio and left? :)

We got a brief glimpse of one large humpback whale on the way into Samana Bay - but too quick for the camera.  It was large!!  and about 100 yds from the boat.  Yikes!  hope they know whats around them.

We arrived late in Samana - just after dark and could not raise the marina, so we anchored in a small bay off the town of Samana.  Hmmm......sketchy place, it took 5 tries to get the anchor to catch.  Seems like a rock base to the anchorage and many small tour boats on moorings.  Finally we got a hold and stayed the night but decided to move on to the marina the next morning.

The marina was nice - a little pricey for the DR, but that was ok.  We stayed 2 nights and enjoyed their pool.  Also took a car rental and visited El Limon (waterfall) and Las Terrenas - a touristy beach town of ex-pats.  

The marina staff were very helpful..  The check-in process is a bit like Cuba - you need a despachio for each stop in the DR, which is a bit laborious.

But nonetheless, the marina was very nice!

The next morning we moved on to the National Park known as Los Haitises.  Now that was beautiful and worth a visit!

Absolutely gorgeous scenery, with a shorelines of caves and riverlets to explore in mangroves an with steep rock faces.  I understand parts of Jurassic Park were filmed here.........and I was waiting for the velociraptors to appear!

This was worth the stop in the DR......I would love to come back and explore some more!


Our next stop was Luperon.  I have heard cruisers rave about Luperon, but some reviews on Active Captain were not too great.  I am not sure what we were expecting.......but, hmmm.  There are some places that cruisers seem to congregate for differing reasons.  Cheap prices - always a bonus, and tht is Luperon for sure!  $2 mooring fee; you can get a meal for $3-5.  Poverty here is high, but the people are friendly.  Quite a few semi-derelict boats in the mooring field - some look abandonned.

I will not pass judgement, but we decided it was not a place we wanted to stay too long.  To me, its a bit of a "Boot Key" feel, with much cheaper prices.
Main Street - Luperon

Papo and Handy Andy seem to run the mooring field and will do anything for you - from boat work to grocery delivery.  In fact, handy Andy brought beer for us!

Mooring Field - Luperon

Mooring Field - Luperon